Sunday, February 28, 2010

I’ve Finally Snagged An Agent. I Should Hit the Bestseller’s List in Two Months!

I know most of you out there are laughing your butts off, especially those who have agents. In a perfect world, this might be true. Hello! We’re not in a perfect world. There is still crime, poverty, hunger and yes, the dreaded rejection letters in our world. Not that I’m comparing the first three to the last one, mind you. But still, a rejection hurts, even if it’s sugar-coated with “You’re a talented writer, but...”

I signed with an agency three years ago and just knew I was on my way to being published. I had a great story and an enthusiastic new agent who loved it. I started dreaming about book signings and - God help me for wanting this so badly – in every dream I saw myself wearing the pink first sale ribbon at Nationals. Most people want the cash. I wanted the ribbon.

Nine months later, after getting my hopes up more times than I want to remember when editors showed an interest in my story, I was still unpublished. So, after I finally buried the notion I would be an instant hit in the publishing world, I began another story. In the meantime, my agent left to spend more time helping her daughter, an Olympic hopeful, and I was handed down to my present agent.

Again, my expectations soared. As a slow writer, it took another nine months to finish the novel. I was already planning a trip back to Ohio, my home state, for a book signing with all my family and high school buddies.

“This book isn’t big enough to be your breakout novel,” new agent said. “Keep writing.”

Because I had instant chemistry with her and trusted her judgment implicitly, I started a third story. She was excited about this one, which in turn, excited me. Nine months later – did I mention my snail-paced writing?- I turned in my ghost story.

She loved it. Halelujah! Best seller’s list, here I come!

Not!

She sent the story to several houses and an editor at Berkley loved it. She asked if it was a series. Of course it was a series, I said, imagining a four book deal. Again, I checked the airlines for cheap flights to Ohio.

Fast forward to “I love the story but I can’t use it for my line.” I’m sure they heard the sound of my dream crumbling back in Bridgeport. What else could I do? I had an agent I believed in, I’d written a story we all loved, but I had no sale. What happened to getting my first sale two months after signing with an agent?

Here’s what happened. The expectation was ridiculous. Granted, my chances escalated when I signed on the dotted line, but come on. The same horrible economic downswing that has me clipping coupons and eating out less has also hit NY and the rest of the world.

So, what good is an agent, you ask?

I can only speak for my own who spends hours on the phone with editors, me and other clients and even hops on a plane to NY at least once a month for face to face contact with editors to find out what each one is specifically looking for. She took the rejection for my ghost story and turned into something positive. Knowing the editor loved my voice, she told her she would have something else from me that better fit her line. Six weeks later, I had a three book deal from a proposal.

So, I’m here to tell you patience is a writer’s friend. The reality is, if you’re fortunate enough to have an agent, you have to give her time to find the right market for your story. Trust in her judgment when she gives you a page full of edits or tells you the story needs more work. She spends hours researching and she knows what’s selling.

And, BTW, even if you sell today, chances are your book won’t release until 2012, so that blows the “from sale to bestseller in two months” right out the window. Let’s get real. An agent isn’t a miracle worker. Keep doing what you do best – writing- and trust her to do what she does best - finding a home for your story.

Patience – pray for it!

I’d love to hear your comments whether you have an agent or not.

24 comments:

Anita Clenney said...

Great blog, Liz. I got a good laugh out of this. I didn't think it would take me so long after I signed either, but I hadn't realized how much work my story needed. I think we do have unrealistic expectations of agents. They can help tremendously, and trusting your agent is so important, but they can't control editors needs. And not to mention there's only one of them and so much work to do, not only for me, but for other clients as well.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

This is soooo true! I did the same thing, signed with my agent and thought, yeah, this is it! I'm gonna sell within a month! Not!!

An agent CAN do wonders for you, but they really aren't miracle workers. Selling takes a lot of hard work, time and patience. We can't stress what we can't control, all we can do is keep writing great stories and trust our agents to do the rest :-)

Edie Ramer said...

Liz, I don't have patience, but this business is teaching it to me. I have had an agent, and it didn't work out. I know now that it's a waiting game, but you can't help getting excited when an agent loves your work. Now when I send something out, I send it without expectations, but always with hope.

Liz Lipperman said...

Anita, this is so true. I know Christine is as disappointed as we are when she gets a rejection and has to tell us about it.

And we all think our story is the bomb...until we get that dreaded edits call!!!

FYI, Anita just got a three book deal with SourceBooks. Check out her new website www.anitaclenney.com

Liz Lipperman said...

Kari, you and I are two of Christine's original clients, so we've wait the longest. Although it paid off in the long run, I know, for me, there were times when self-doubt tried to rear it's ugly head. (I am the queen of cliches!)

Thanks for commenting, Kari.

Liz Lipperman said...

Edie, thanks for stopping by. I didn't know you had an agent before. Unfortunately, I've heard stories from too many others about how an agent/client relationship wasn't the best and they had to move on.

I've read your stuff. Not only do I expect you to get an agent soon, but I think a book deal will soon follow. I'm curious, though. Because you were able to get an agent once, did that increase your expectations for signing with another one quickly?

Cassy Pickard said...

Liz: You've done it again! Great post. AND, since we share the same agent along with Kari and Mary of this blog, I truly hear you. We have the best of the best working on our behalf. Even with that on our side, gosh, this is a tough business.

One of the things I absolutely love about Christine is her belief in our ability to finally "get there." Her honesty about when the writing still needs work protects us and her whip doesn't let us slip.

You, folks, are incredibly important to the nutty life we have chosen. Without the support, encouragement, and irreverent laughter, I'd be one lonely kid. Thanks, guys.

Mary Martinez said...

Liz you hit it on the head! I'm praying for patience! LOL. Christine is my dream agent and she's also a very hard worker. I swear the woman has no life. And when it's my turn to be working 24/7 on my story I will be so grateful.

But now I'm praying for patience for my turn.

Thanks Liz, I really, really, really needed this today!
Mary

Mary Moreno said...

Great blog, Liz. I would just like to add that for me, the secret to not losing my mind over expectations is to stay in the moment and focus on what I'm doing. Write for writing's sake. I enjoy hanging out with my characters. And perhaps some day we'll all hang out on the bestseller lists!

Liz Lipperman said...

Cassy, you hit it on the head when you said this business is too unpredictable not to have other writers cheering us on. Okay, you said it way more elegantly, but you get the message.

It's easy to be envious when a friend gets "The Call" but we hang in there with cyber champagne and well wishes because we are truly happy for our friends. More importantly,we believe our turn is coming.

Thanks for commenting.

Liz Lipperman said...

Mary, LOL on the patience thing. It is much easier to write about it than to actually practice what I preach.

I'm glad this hit you when you needed it. Hang in there. Believe it will happen.

Patience is a virtue!! That doesn't make it any easier.

Liz Lipperman said...

Manhattan Mary, you should have written this blog. That's the perfect way to fight off self doubt. I'm going to have to try it. Of course, folks, Mary's character is Mozart! How much fun is that to be in his head?

And from your mouth to God's ear on the Bestseller's List for all of us.

Lindsay said...

Liz, I agree with everyone that it's a great post. Like everyone, I'm waiting for, like you said, 'The Call'. Heck, I'll settle for an email. But in the meantime I just keep working and polishing my book. And to make my life more fun and interesting I keep writing and editing for small press and e-pubs. Not to mention reediting my full.
The one thing I've found is, I have to have patience. It's not an easy thing to have in this fast paced e-world we live in.
We all write because we love it and want to. Otherwise, we'd find other ways to go crazy.
Again, great post.

Melanie Atkins said...

Great blog, Liz. I've had the same dreams of selling to NY, and I don't have an agent yet. lol

Liz Lipperman said...

Hey, Lindsay, welcome to a new week. I loved your email comment. We'll have to start saying, I got The Email!!!!

You're so right about writing because we love it. Why else would we subject ourselves to so much rejection and disappointment?

I'm curious how you would drive yourself crazy if you didn't have writing? Fess up.

Liz Lipperman said...

Mel, keep believing. With so many books under your belt, it has to happen.

And you know what they say? It's sometimes easier to find a publisher than it is to get an agent. Don't give up. If patience doesn't work, try margaritas!!

Thanks for stopping by.

Lindsay said...

Liz,
Confession my be good for the soul but since I don't have one-guess I can't confess. Hey, I kill people off, in my books.
How would I drive myself crazy if I didn't write? I really don't know. I've been writing for so many years but only professionally, got a royalty check, for the past 3-4 years I clueless. Course for me, it's more a shot putt than a drive. Just ask Cassy if you don't believe me.
I honestly can't image a life without writing. But that's probably a topic for a blog someday.

Cassy Pickard said...

Liz and others: This really is a crazy business. I love the comments! Keep 'em coming. Cassy

Lynn Romaine said...

Hi Liz - my first visit to your blog after an invite from Kari Lee to blog next week here. I Looooved your post. (and I'm a very picky blogger - mostly don't find a lot that inspires or makes me laugh in them) - I've even recommended the blog to my writing groups! I am someone who drools over people with agents - but I am starting to see it may not be what's there for me. Writing for seven years, I've been lucky to get 3 books out in small press but alas, dream of the big league. All of you on this blog are an inspiration and lighthearted about the whole thing - thanks for that and I'll be back for visits -
lynn romaine -

Liz Lipperman said...

Lynn, welcome to M & M and I'm gonna kiss you for the nice things you said about it. We really do try not to take ourselves too seriously around here. And in our business, we have to maintain a sense of humor. I checked out your website and I must say, environmental romantic suspense sounds intriguing. I love the alley picture - so suspenseful.

My only advice to you is to keep on querying agents. I'm like a broken record, but it really does only take one to fall in love with your voice. What I failed to mention in the blog entry was the number one benefit for having an agent. She knows how to get the best contract for me. That's what one will bring to your table.

Again, thanks for the nice comment. I'm looking forward to having you blog with us.

Mary Marvella said...

Well, Liz, you just blew the myth that having an agent equals becoming a NY Times seller. Bummer!

Liz Lipperman said...

Hey, Mary, someone had to blow it. Although I still have high hopes. LOL

Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

I thought once I snagged my very experienced agent who had a lot of best-selling authors, a 3-book deal was just around the corner. Then the rejections started rolling in. Oh, but there was that bright, shiny moment when an editor from Penguin asked for some minor revisions. No problem! Made the revisions, thinking This Was It. Sadly, it wasn't. The editor assured me she loved what I'd done, but her boss said it would compete with other titles on their list. Then, just as heartbreaking to me, my agent started giving me the silent treatment. I was forced to terminate our contract.

I realized that my ex-agent was more interested in a quick sale than in helping me build my career as a writer. There is some good news for me in all this. I'm writing in a slightly different genre now, one I love even more than my repped book.

This business drives me to drink some days.

Liz Lipperman said...

Hey, Anonymous, thanks for stopping by. I read your story with interest since it could have been written by several of my friends. I will tell you what I said to them when they were going through it.

Pick up your head and stand tall. You had an agent. Most writers never get that far, not because they're not great writers, but because of a zillion different reasons.

And you did. It will happen again. I see a lot of similarities even with my story. The Penguin editor asked for rewrites. They don't waste their time responding if they don't feel a connection to your voice.

I'm glad you're finding writing serenity in another genre, but I'm not so sure I would give up the first one in light of the editor's comments. Maybe just put it on the back burner for a while.

Hey, when you are driven to drink, call me. We didn't name this blog Mysteries and Margaritas for nothing!

Thanks again for commenting with your story. And keep the faith.